Friday, August 31, 2012




1.Rediff's interesting report on NaMo's online publicity blitzkrieg …

2.I have been drawing attention to this for more than 18 months. I had also drawn attention last year to online blitzkrieg of Anna's team.

3. NaMo and Team Anna were helped by excellent IT brains---domestic in case of Anna and NRIs in case of NaMo. There has been online fatigue ..... contd

4. in case of Team Anna, but not in case of Team NaMo. If Team NaMo can moderate their language and use facts and figures and not abuses and .....  contd

5.invectives, one cannot object to their online blitzkrieg. Team NaMo has had a headstart online. Cong is waking up only now to  CONTD potential.A bit too late. At same time, online reach in India is limited. Team NaMo will have some advantage, but not crucial.FINI









Mr.Liang Guanglie, the Chinese Defence Minister, who is in Sri Lanka since August 29,2012, on an official visit at the head of a 23-member delegation, is reaching New Delhi on September 2,2012, for a three-day official visit before proceeding to Laos from where he will return home.

2. His visit to India has  aroused considerable interest in India and outside. After a gap of eight years, a Chinese Defence Minister will be visiting India. The visit will be taking place on the eve of the forthcoming leadership changes in the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese Government after the present leadership completes his 10-year-term.The changes in the party leadership will be taking place in October and the Government leadership in March next year.

3. In Mao Dze-dong and Deng Xiao-ping China had produced commanding individual leaders who imparted their personal stamp to policy-making----Mao in respect of foreign policy and Deng in respect of economic policies. After the departure of Deng, China has not produced a leader of similar commanding presence and influence. Amongst the expected leaders of the coming decade, one does not see anyone, who might play  such a commanding role and impart far-reaching changes to policy-making.

4.Collective leadership will continue to be the norm in the coming decade with important policies being decided collectively by the party leadership and implemented by the Government. It is, therefore, unlikely that the Chinese Defence Minister will give any indications of possible policy changes under the coming new leadership.

5. The visit will mark an improvement in the military-military relationship between the Armed Forces and the Defence Ministries of the two countries. This relationship, which had improved between 2004 and 2008 after the last visit of a Chinese Defence Minister,  suffered a set-back after some actions taken by China which indicated a possible identification of Chinese thinking and policies with those of Pakistan in matters relating to Jammu & Kashmir.

6. The first of these actions was the Chinese reluctance to issue a normal visa to a senior officer of the Indian Army posted in Jammu & Kashmir to visit China at the head of a delegation for one of the routine talks with their Chinese counterparts. This was the first time India had nominated a senior Army officer posted in J&K to head a military delegation for bilateral talks in China.

7. The Chinese reportedly took up the stand that India should either nominate an officer posted outside J&K or if it insisted on sending this particular officer, it would issue to him a special visa on a plain piece of paper and not the normal visa on his Indian passport. India rightly did not agree to this and as a result the normal Army-Army exchanges were  downgraded by India, if not suspended. It has been reported that the Chinese have since given up their hesitation to issue normal visas to officers of the Indian Armed Forces posted in J&K for official visits to China. As a result, military exchanges have again resumed and started improving.

8. The second Chinese action relating to J&K that has caused concern in India is their de facto and officially unannounced recognition of Pakistani claims of sovereignty over Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), which is still a disputed territory with conflicting claims of sovereignty by India and Pakistan. This de facto recognition could be seen in their acceptance without any objection of leaders and officials of the Gilgit-Baltistan administration in official delegations headed by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani visiting China. The Chinese have never raised the issue of any special visas for Pakistani officials, civilian or military, posted in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Gilgit-Baltistan who are required to visit China.

9.The third Chinese action relating to J&K that has caused concern in Indian military circles relates to the reported induction of a number of personnel of the engineering divisions of the PLA into the POK and GB for the upgradation of the Karakoram Highway and additional personnel from their infantry divisions for providing protection to their engineering units.

10.In such issues relating to J&K, the Chinese Defence Ministry and  Armed forces play an important role in guiding policy-making. The Chinese actions in going ahead with these moves unmindful of the sensitivities and concerns of India indicate certain pro-Pakistani constants in Chinese strategic policy-making relating to its relations with India and Pakistan.

11. The Chinese have reportedly sought to address Indian sensitivities relating to the issue of visas to Indian military officers posted in J & K, but they have not shown any willingness to address the Indian sensitivities and concerns over their actions in the POK and GB. However, the Government of India has apparently decided not to let this come in the way of the resumption of military-military exchanges and confidence-building measures between the two countries. The visit of the Chinese Defence Minister will impart the political stamp of approval to various steps being considered for further strengthening the exchanges and CBMs. Among such measures being speculated about are the  resumption of the joint counter-terrorism exercises which are in a state of suspension since 2008, a possible joint air force exercise,  the upgradation of the level of military representation in the Embassies of the two countries  in each other’s capital and greater co-ordination of the anti-Somali piracy operations of the Navies of the two countries. It has been reported by “The Hindu” that the Chinese are keen to have separate Attaches from their Navy and Air Force in their Embassy in New Delhi on a reciprocal basis and that New Delhi may agree to this.

12.Chinese intentions and capabilities in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and in those areas of Xinjiang adjoining  J&K continue to be a matter of concern to Indian military circles. In addition to strengthening their military-related infrastructure and deployments in the TAR, the Chinese have been stepping up the level, diversity, frequency and complexity of their military exercises in the TAR since October 2010. These exercises have a domestic as well as an India-focussed dimension.

13. The domestic dimension relates to strengthening their capability for putting down any disturbances after the death of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Last month, the Chinese internal security agencies held joint counter-terrorism exercises in the Lhasa region. They are trying to strengthen the helicopter-lift capability of their Army in the plateau areas. They are extending their rail and road networks and constructing more airfields in the TAR. All these at present seem to be related to strengthening their capability to prevent any instability in Tibet after His Holiness, but these value-additions could also help them in any military operations against India in the Arunachal Pradesh sector.

14. The India-focussed dimension is about the increasing participation of the Chinese Air Force in military exercises in the TAR. Why this increasing importance to the role of the Air Force in Tibet? It cannot be to meet internal instability. It has to be to meet eventualities in the event of a military conflict with India.

15.In the past, some Indian analysts were of the view that the Indian Army might not have suffered a humiliation at the hands of the Chinese Army in 1962 if India had used its Air Force to disrupt the Chinese lines of communications. It is now mentally accepted in both the countries that if there is another conventional military conflict between the two countries, the two Air Forces will play an active role. It should be evident from the recent exercises with the active participation of the Chinese Air Force that the Chinese are improving the training of their Army and Air Force for eventual joint operations if there is a military conflict with India

16. The importance of such high-level visits lies not only in the formalities of the discussions and exchanges across the table, but also in the informalities of the brain-picking during the opportunities for informal interactions provided by the visits. Indian military officials will definitely try to find out what exactly is the Chinese military thinking relating to operations mounted from Tibet, but they are unlikely to get an answer. The answer has to come from our intelligence agencies.

17.The prevailing wisdom presently is that if there is another military conflict with China, it will be an Army-Air Force joint operation from both sides across the border with no involvement by the Navies. Has the time come to revisit that wisdom and re-examine the likely role of the two Navies? It is in this context that the Indian Navy ought to be viewing and assessing the growing Chinese military interest in countries such as  Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Seychelles.

18. The Chinese military’s interest in these  countries has two dimensions. The first is strengthening the military supply relationship in order to create a dependence on Chinese military equipment. The second is to strengthen  the Chinese role in port development and to improve the Navy-Navy exchanges. The strategic implications of the second dimension ought to be a matter of growing concern for the Indian Navy. At present, the seeming Chinese interest is in protecting their supplies of energy and other essential goods for which their Navy requires a presence in countries en route.

19. What could be the impact of the Navy-related capabilities in the Indian Ocean region that they are developing on a future military conflict between India and China? That is a question that has to be seriously examined by us.

20. The Chinese are puzzled and worried by the visibles and invisibles of our developing strategic relationship with the US.Is it purely an ad hoc and one-night courting or is there a strategic durability to the Indo-US coming together? Does it purely have an ocean-related dimension relating to jointly protecting the respective interests of India and the US in the Indian Ocean region or does it have a South China Sea dimension too? What is the extent of the strategic co-operation between the Armies and Air Forces of India and the US? What kind of scenarios warranting ground co-operation they are discussing? Is the possibility of an opportunistic foray into Tibet in the event of instability there one of the scenarios being discussed?

21.These are questions to which the Chinese have been trying to find an answer. It is likely that during the informal discussions between the two delegations, the Chinese will try to pick our brains on these questions bothering them. It will be in our interest to keep them guessing and worried.

22. A conventional wisdom at present in thinking and analytical circles in both India and the US is that the Chinese are mighty worried over the possibility of India and the US coming together to contain China. I do not subscribe to this. Their first worry now  is the implications of the India-US military co-operation for their attempts to pacify Tibet and in any military conflict between India and China over the unresolved border issue. We should keep this constantly in mind in our strategic planning.( 1-9-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)









Pakistani media reports on the meeting between our Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari in the margins of the NAM summit in Tehran on August 29,2012, are tinged with ill-concealed disappointment over the perceived reluctance of our Prime Minister to make a definitive commitment over a possible visit by him to Pakistan.

2. A few weeks ago Mr Zardari was reported to have written to Dr.Manmohan Singh inviting him to visit the Sikh holy shrines in and around Lahore  coming November.

3. According to reliable Pakistani sources, no formal reply to the invitation has so far gone to Islamabad from New Delhi. Pakistani leaders were hoping that some positive indications of a likely acceptance of the invitation might be forthcoming during the meeting between the two leaders in Tehran.

4. The indications from New Delhi before our Prime Minister’s departure for Tehran that India would not be taking up with Pakistan the allegations of a possible Pakistani State role in the dissemination through the cyber space of exaggerated  and false accounts of the recent anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar and India with the help of morphed images and creation of feelings of nervousness and panic among the people from India’s North-East living in South India and Pune added to the Pakistani hopes of a positive reply from our Prime Minister.

5. Before the Prime Minister’s departure for Tehran, sections of the Indian media had carried what appeared to be authoritative though unattributed reports that Dr.Manmohan Singh would not raise this issue with Mr.Zardari for want of evidence regarding any role of the Pakistani State in the dissemination.

6. This lowered the somewhat high temperature created following briefings that had earlier come from officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India insinuating a possible role of the Pakistani State agencies.

7.According to Pakistani journalists who had accompanied Mr.Zardari to Tehran, Dr.Manmohan Singh confined himself to reiterating the importance of early and satisfactory prosecution of the master conspirators of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai now facing trial before a special anti-terrorism tribunal in Rawalpindi. He was reported to have stated that effective action by Pakistan to take the trial to its logical conclusion would be an important confidence-building measure.

8. While Pakistani sources describe the atmosphere during the discussions as good, there is a disappointment over the continuing reluctance of the Prime Minister to  visit Pakistan. It is stated that while keeping open the possibility of a visit at an appropriate time, Dr. Manmohan Singh was disinclined to give definitive indications of dates.

9.According to reliable Pakistani sources, Dr.Manmohan Singh was a little more cautious than he was during the visit of Mr.Zardari to Delhi in April last on the question of a possible visit by him to Pakistan.

10. Despite the implication of Pakistani state agencies by Abu Jundal, the Indian terrorist belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba, who had played a role in the orchestration from Karachi of the 26/11 terrorist strikes, there has been no negative factors of a serious nature in the bilateral relations since Mr.Zardari’s visit.

11. If reports from my Pakistani sources of an extra-cautious Dr.Manmohan Singh on the question of a visit to Pakistan are correct, it is my assessment that this could not be due to any fresh negative factors in the bilateral relations. This could be more due to the fact that the Congress Party is toying with the idea of mid-term polls either this year-end or in the beginning of next year.

12. In the calculations of the  Congress Party, simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and the Gujarat Assembly would keep Shri Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, bottled up in Gujarat and come in the way of his playing an active role in the campaign in the rest of India. Early mid-term polls would also prevent Anna Hazare and his followers from politically organising themselves.

13. If the Congress decides in favour of mid-term polls, any new initiative in Indo-Pakistan relations such as a visit to Pakistan by the Prime Minister could prove unwise and counter-productive.

14. Hence, the Prime Minister’s reported extra caution during his talks with Mr.Zardari in Tehran. ( 30-8-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

















Thursday, August 30, 2012





I have been in receipt of E-mails very critical of my two articles  on the Obiter observations of the Supreme Court regarding the objectionable role of our TV channels in their live coverage of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. Some E-mails have been from people I don’t know and some others from people I know and respect----print media journos and  officers of the Indian Police Service.

2. Their objection is to my stand that the SC’s critical observations are  directed at all TV channels and not at any individual channel or reporter in particular. They have interpreted this as an attempt by me to whitewash the objectionable manner in which Barkha Dutt of NDTV did her live reporting of 26/11.

3. They allege that anybody who was present in Mumbai at that time and had seen the way Barkha bulldozed her way around and live-covered the operations against the Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists from Mumbai would not fail to notice that some of the references made by the SC point the needle of disapproval at her and the NDTV channel without naming them.

4.While strongly backing Barkha on the so-called Radia Tapes issue, I had in the past not hesitated to express my disquiet over the way she covered 26/11. I know that the community of IPS officers----serving and retired--- had been surprised for many months over what they perceived as my reluctance to criticise vehemently and in public Barkha’s coverage of 26/11.

5. In December last, I had attended a reunion of retired IPS officers of the 1961 batch at the National Police Academy at Hyderabad. The theme of the reunion was media and the police. Thereafter, I remember to have written and said that since 26/11 I have not come across a single IPS officer who is not unhappy with her live coverage of 26/11.

5. In the wake of the E-mails, I have re-read  the SC’s observations regarding the role of the TV channels in their live coverage of 26/11 and my two articles. I still feel what I wrote in my two articles was well thought out and appropriate to the nature and contents of the Obiter.

6. I had also mentioned in my articles that if the relatives of the victims are able to establish that the examples cited by the SC have been taken from the telecasts of any particular channel or reporter, they could consider filing a damage suit against that channel. ( 30-8-12)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012




I have been in receipt of feed-back from some of my friends, Tweeter followers and readers raising certain questions in the wake of the judgement delivered by the Supreme Court on August 29,2012, dismissing the appeal of Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani accused in the 26/11 terrorist strikes, against the death sentence passed against him. The judgement has confirmed the death sentence as justified and warranted.

2. The first set of questions relates to how soon the death sentence will be carried out. There are legal and administrative procedures to be followed before the sentence is executed. I would not like to comment on them.

3. The second set of questions relates to what is seen by many Netizens as an attempted cover-up by our private TV channels of the very critical observations made by the court as an obiter regarding the live coverage of the 26/11 strikes by our private channels.

4. As pointed out by me in an earlier article, the devastatingly critical observations made by the court relate to the Indian private channels AS A WHOLE and not to any particular channel. It is important to keep this in view so that one doesn’t go on a witch-hunt.

5. Having said that, I have to underline that in my over 20 years of experience in dealing with and analysing terrorism I have not come across any instance anywhere in the world where the judiciary has on its own come out with such a devastating criticism of the role of the TV media in live coverage of acts of terrorism.

6. I do not have as yet access to an authenticated copy of the observations of the court relating  to the role of the media. The extracts cited by me below have been taken from some web sites believed to be accurate.

7. The Supreme Court, inter alia, said:

“405. Any attempt to justify the conduct of the TV channels by citing the right to freedom of speech and expression would be totally wrong and unacceptable in such a situation. The freedom of expression, like all other freedoms under Article 19, is subject to reasonable restrictions. An action tending to violate another person’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 or putting the national security in jeopardy can never be justified by taking the plea of freedom of speech and expression.

“406. The shots and visuals that were shown live by the TV channels could have also been shown after all the terrorists were neutralized and the security operations were over. But, in that case the TV programmes would not have had the same shrill, scintillating and chilling effect and would not have shot up the TRP ratings of the channels. It must, therefore, be held that by covering live the terrorists attack on Mumbai in the way it was done, the Indian TV channels were not serving any national interest or social cause. On the contrary they were acting in their own commercial interests putting the national security in jeopardy.

“407. It is in such extreme cases that the credibility of an institution is tested. The coverage of the Mumbai terror attack by the mainstream electronic media has done much harm to the argument that any regulatory mechanism for the media must only come from within.” ---Citation ends

8. The Supreme Court’s observations, in my view, are of such far-reaching significance in the history of terrorism in India that one would have expected that this would be one of the main themes of the various TV debates that one saw on the night of August 29. I did not see all the TV debates and, as such, am not in a position to make any authoritative comments on this. However, many of the feed-back received by me allege that there was an attempt by the TV channels to cover up or play down this significant aspect of the judgement.

9. The reputation and credibility of our TV channels has already taken a beating as a result of the critical observations of the Supreme Court.  Their credibility would be further weakened if the general impression of a cover-up by the TV channels is further strengthened.

10. The third set of questions relates to the case between NDTV and Barkha Dutt on the one side and Shri Chaitanya Kunte, a private blogger, on the other. He had to withdraw certain observations made by him in his blog post regarding the way Barkha covered the terrorist strikes in Mumbai. Both NDTV and Barkha felt that Shri Kunte’s observations tended to be criminally defamatory and tarnish her professional reputation by seeking to disseminate an insinuation that some of the deaths in the strikes could be attributed to the way Barkha covered the incident from the spot.

11. Many Netizens feel that the SC’s observations have vindicated those of Shri Kunte and hence the NDTV and Barkha now owe an apology to  him for insisting on the deletion of his blog post. I do not agree with this contention on the basis of my reading of the SC’s observations. As already pointed out by me, the observations relate to the coverage by the TV channels as a whole and not to the specific coverage of any individual channel or reporter.

12. It would be untenable to project the observations as amounting to an exoneration of the alleged criminal defamation by Shri Kunte. Some of the criticisms made by Shri Kunte in his blog post were also made by some of us, including this writer, but we voiced our criticism in a professionally objective manner without trying to use it as a stick to beat any TV channel or reporter with.

13. The last set of questions relate to the relatives of the victims of the terrorist strikes. In other democratic countries, after a historic judgement of this nature in a terrorism-related case, the immediate focus of the channels would have been on the relatives of the victims--- How do they feel? Do they think justice has been done? What is their attitude towards the terrorist who contributed to the brutal deaths of their relatives? These are some of the questions that would have been addressed abroad and should have been addressed in our TV debates.

14. Ever since my participation on behalf of the Government of India in the International Summit on Terrorism in Madrid in March,2005, I have written a number of articles and delivered speeches  drawing attention to the  lack of victim activism in India which, in my view, has contributed to the way terrorism is handled by the Government and the media.

15. I will give three instances of the difference that victim activism can make to the quality and effectiveness of counter-terrorism:

( a ). In 1988, a Pan Am aircraft from the US carrying US passengers going to Europe for spending the Christmas with their families was blown up off Lockerbie on the Irish coast. During the enquiries, it came out that one of the US agencies had been in receipt of information warning of the likelihood of a terrorist strike against US nationals travelling to Europe for Christmas. The agency alerted all airline companies, but it did not share the information with the public. The relatives of the victims took up the stand that if they had known that such an information existed, they would have advised their relatives not to travel to Europe for X’Mas. The US Government practice of issuing terrorism advisories to the public came into vogue since then.

( b ). After the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US, the relatives of many of the victims joined together, attended the hearings of the Congressional enquiry and saw to it that the recommendations for strengthening the intelligence and counter-terrorism capabilities were implemented.

( c ). After the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, the relatives of the US and Israeli nationals killed filed a suit for damages against Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence in a US court.

16. it is important for the relatives of the victims of the 26/11 strikes to activate themselves in order to see whether the sins of commission and omission pointed out by the SC could be linked to the coverage of any individual channel and if so, whether, it could be sued for damages. They should also agitate against politicians who stand in the way of strengthening our counter-terrorism capabilities due to their political agenda.

17.Unless and until the media is made to realise that it may have to pay heavily for any irresponsible coverage and unless and until the politicians are made to realise that their political future will depend on the interest evinced by them in strengthening our counter-terrorism capabilities, things will not improve. Activism by relatives of victims has an important role to play in this. (30-8-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)






In its judgement of August 29,2012, upholding the death sentence passed on Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving perpetrator of the terrorist strikes carried out by Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, the Supreme Court has made some observations on the role of the media, particularly the Indian TV channels, in covering the terrorist strikes.

2.These observations have been made as Obiter. The legal dictionary defines an obiter as “ Words of an opinion entirely unnecessary for the decision of the case. A remark made or opinion expressed by a judge in a decision upon a cause, "by the way", that is, incidentally or collaterally, and not directly upon the question before the court or upon a point not necessarily involved in the determination of the cause, or introduced by way of illustration, or analogy or argument. Such are not binding as precedent.”

3.Thus, the observations made by the court are not a pronouncement of a judgement or legal determination on the possible responsibility of the media. Those are the passing observations made by the court during its review of some visual/audio recordings seen by it while examining the appeal of Kasab against the death sentence.

4. It is evident that the observations relate to the coverage of the Indian TV channels as a whole. They do not relate to the coverage of any particular channel. It would, therefore, be unfair to blame any individual TV channel as referred to by the court. It has not made any individual reference.

5.However, a perusal of the court’s observations would show that it has been strongly critical of the TV coverage as a whole. Even earlier, the criticism had been voiced by many, including this writer, that due care and caution was not taken by the TV channels in their live coverage, thereby enabling the masterminds of the LET co-ordinating the terrorist strikes from their control room in Karachi, to have some idea of the deployments and planned actions by the security forces.

6. Normally, in Western countries even an obiter is used by the relatives of the victims to file a suit for damages against the media found wanting in the observance of care and caution, provided the obiter is with reference to the role of a particular channel.

7. As a first step, the relatives of the victims in Mumbai should examine the transcripts cited by the court in order to see whether any of the clips from the transcripts could be linked to the telecasts of any particular channel. Only if they are able to do so,  they may be able to consider jointly with the relatives of all victims the possibility of a suit for damages against the particular channel identified as the telecaster of the clips cited by the court. This will be a pains-taking process which may or may not produce satisfactory results.

8. Simultaneously, it is important for a high-power task force of TV professionals to examine the obiter along with the clips cited in it and make suitable recommendations regarding the live coverage of terrorist strikes in future.

9. Most of the terrorist strikes in India are in the form of explosions. The question of live coverage of such incidents does not arise. There have been instances of live coverage of exchanges of fire between the security forces and the terrorists in the past too. Two examples that come to mind are the terrorist strike at Charar-e-Sharif in Jammu and Kashmir in 1995 and the joint action by the Punjab Police and the  National Security Guards in 1988 against some Khalistani terriorists who had taken shelter in the Golden Temple in Amritsar. In those days, there were no private TV channels and hence the police did not face any problem. The print media co-operated with the police by avoiding any sensational coverage.

10. The 26/11 strikes were the first commando-style terrorist attacks in Indian territory outside J&K. The plethora of private TV channels which had come into existence by then added to the operational difficulties of the security forces due to the non-observance of due care and caution in their live coverage.

11.In addition to the initiation of precautionary measures by the channels themselves, it would also be useful for the National Police Academy in Hyderabad to hold periodic seminars with the participation of journalists and police officers on the TV coverage of terrorist attacks. Some case studies could also be discussed during these seminars such as the difficulties faced by the German security forces in 1972 during the Black September terrorist strike on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Unwise coverage by private TV channels allegedly added to the difficulties of the local police. (29-8-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)



Tuesday, August 28, 2012





The Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, has gone to Teheran to attend the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. His participation in the summit will provide him with an opportunity to meet leaders from important countries of the NAM and to have another round of bilateral talks with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan. Even if nothing substantive and substantial comes out of his meeting with Zardari, it will still be useful to keep the bilateral dialogue process going despite Pakistan’s uncooperative attitude in dealing with terrorism and Psyjihad emanating from Pakistani territory.

2.India no longer plays the kind of leadership role in NAM as it used to in the past. We don’t have to shed tears over it. While multilateral relationships are still important in economic matters, bilateral relations need to have greater priority in our national interest.

3. We have to carefully weigh the relative importance of our bilateral relations with Israel, the US and Iran before deciding whether any new policy initiatives are required in our relations with Iran. I do not think so.

4. We tend to be emotional in discussing our relations with Iran with deep nostalgic references to the civilizational links with Iran. Iranian leaders and analysts too  talk of this civilizational relationship, but without any sign of nostalgia or emotion.

5. When Iran decided to start a covert war against Israel through acts of terrorism against Israeli nationals and interests in the territories of other countries having an Israeli presence, it chose India as one of its anti-Israeli covert warfare grounds. It tried to orchestrate the killing of an Israeli national working in the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi last February.

6. It did not allow any nostalgic or emotional attachment to its relations with India to come in the way of its sponsoring an act of terrorism against an Israeli national in our territory. It would not hesitate to sponsor another act of terrorism against Israel in our territory if a favourable opportunity presented itself without bothering about its impact on its bilateral ties with India.

7.Our strategic and national security interests should be the decisive factor in our policy-making towards Israel, the US and Iran. Yes, Iran has been an important factor in our energy security. But in other dimensions of national security, its role has been minimal and will continue to be so. It has no security-related modern technology. Its attitude on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism against India has been ambivalent. Its support for Indian interests in Afghanistan is uncertain. If it acquires a Shia A-bomb, we will be faced with  Sunni as well as Shia bombs.

8.Our strategic and national security interests should dictate a careful nursing of our relations with Israel and the US, both of which have been more beneficial to us than Iran. Both have modern security-related technologies. Israel has never hesitated to share its technologies with India----even sensitive ones. The US is not as willing as Israel, but its attitude should improve as our bilateral relations improve. We have common strong interests with Israel and the US in countering jihadi terrorism. The intelligence agencies of India, Israel and the US have had a long history of co-operation in the exchange of intelligence. India shares a common interest with Israel and the US in monitoring and countering malign nuclear developments in Pakistan and Iran.

9. We should maintain our present economic relations with Iran so long as international circumstances and Iran’s willingness permit it. Where the importance of our economic relations with Iran come into conflict with the requirements of our national security, which demand continued close relations with Israel and the US, strategic and security considerations should prevail over economic.

10. If one day Iran stops its energy supplies to India, we can find alternate sources. But if we allow emotional considerations relating to Iran affect the strengthening of our strategic and national security related ties with Israel and the US, we cannot find equally beneficial and dependable alternate strategic partners. ( 28-8-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)



Monday, August 27, 2012





Barkha Dutt’s We The People Show on NDTV on the night of August 26,2012, had an interesting and topical live debate on Internet Censorship. It was well-formatted and well-conducted with some good interventions  and had the inimitable professional stamp of Barkha. Kudos to her .

2. However, as pointed out by me in my tweeted feed-back to Barkha, the security perspective was missing. We had a plethora of non-Governmental perspectives, with Governmental security perspectives largely kept out. Even among non-Governmental experts, those dealing   with national security issues were conspicuous by their absence.

3.Three points made during the debate were untenable and remained unchallenged since there were no security experts among the participants. I will confine my present remarks only to those points for the benefit of my loyal readers and followers.

4. The first point, which made an instant appeal to Barkha’s people, was that the best way of countering disinformation and rumours is through a proactive Government dissemination of correct information. Sounds beautiful, but it was an over-simplistic argument by someone who had not studied religious, racial and communal violence all over the world since religion was born.

5.Most incidents of religious and communal violence are due to inflamed passions triggered off partly by real incidents and partly by exaggerated accounts of the real incidents spread through rumours and disinformation. Psychological experts will tell you that when religious passions are aroused, people  tend to believe the version of the religious clergy and not that of the Government.

6. That is why all over the world---in democracies as well as in dictatorial societies--- the laws give the police prohibitory powers to prevent people from assembling in the streets and adding to the passions through word  of mouth or printed or hand-written literature. Examples of such prohibitory powers are Section 144 and Curfew.

7. The standard drill for dealing with religious and communal passions all over the world is prohibit people from assembling in the streets and places of worship, make spreading of rumours criminal and seize literature tending to add to the passions. Through these measures, the Police and the security  forces prevent the passions from aggravating and give a window of  manoeuvrability to the political leaders and the leaders of the communities to explain the correct facts and bring down the passions. Once they succeed, the prohibitory orders are lifted.

8. The conventional prohibitory powers enacted  about 150 years ago to prevent an aggravation of religious and communal  passions cannot be applied to the Internet and its social networking sites when they are sought to be misused to disseminate exaggerated accounts and rumours. Special powers and special action are necessary to control the fanning of passions through the Net and social networking sites. Such powers have been given to law and order authorities all over the world. These powers relate to Net surveillance and action to block or jam sites tending to inflame passions temporarily till the aggravation of passions is prevented and the political and community leaders are able to cool it by disseminating correct information.

9. The dissemination of disinformation, rumours and morphed images alleging commission of atrocities on the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State of Myanmar started in July. The Myanmar Government detected such dissemination within two weeks and brought it to the notice of not only its Muslim residents, but also  the Governments of the OIC member-States. Its version of the true facts is not accepted even today either by the Rohingyas or by the OIC states. What other option it has but to block the offending sites till passions come down?

10. The unconventional digital prohibitory powers are not meant to be used permanently. They are meant to be used temporarily till passions come down and the circulation of rumours subsides. In my Articles on the violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar and in Assam, I have been advocating an avoidance of over-reaction which could aggravate the Muslim anger and calibrated blocking of Net sites to control passions of Muslims and calm down the panic of the people from the North-East.

11. In a tweet to me, Barkha said she found my feed-back confusing. She said: ‘Sir, you are criticising me for not inviting  the MHA, but you yourself criticised their blocking.”  I advocated the blocking of the sites of the ill-wishers of the State and criticised the blocking of the well-wishers like Kanchan Gupta, the journalist. Even though I did not agree with the MHA’s assessment on many points, I did feel that We The People had as much right to know the views of the MHA as it had to know the views of people like Kabir Bedi, the film-actor.

12. I want to challenge two points made by Shri Jay Panda, the highly respected political leader of Orissa. He claimed that there has been no act of terrorism in the US after 9/11.Incorrect. There has been no act of catastrophic terrorism in the US after 9/11, but there have been  sub-catastrophic acts of terrorism and attempted terrorism even after 9/11.Examples:The attempted plane bombing by a shoe bomber (prevented by an alert air hostess), the attempted explosion on board a Detroit-bound plane  (prevented by an alert passenger), the attempted explosion in Times Sq , New York, by a Taliban-trained Pakistani (prevented by an alert pedestrian), the shooting down of a number of US soldiers by a follower of a US Muslim cleric of Yemeni origin, who subsequently became the head of the Yemen branch of  Al Qaeda and was killed in a Drone Strike in Yemen last year.

13.There have been terrorist attacks and attempted terrorist acts in the US even after 9/11 but they were prevented from assuming catastrophic proportions, inter alia, by the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) of the US set up by an enlightened political leadership of the US in 2004.Shri Navin Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Orissa, has been in the forefront of Chief Ministers opposing the NCTC even in a modified form.

14. I am sick and tired of people who keep claiming that there has been no terrorism in the US after 9/11, whereas terrorists continue to be active in India. I would like to pose the following questions to Shri Panda and others of Barkha’s people:

( a ).India has the world’s second largest Muslim population. How many are there in the US?

( b ). India is next door to the world’s epicentre of jihadi terrorism. How far away is the US from this epicentre?

( c ).After 9/11, US Congressmen have willingly given their counter-terrorism agencies new powers and new capabilities like the NCTC to deal with jihadi terrorism. Shri Panda, how many have you and your ilk given us?

( d ).In the US, arrested jihadi suspects are treated like war criminals seeking to wage war against the US and detained in the military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. Shri Panda, you don’t even allow us to keep them for interrogation in our Police Stations for a few days.

( e).Shri Panda,Shri Kabir Bedi and other Barkha’s people:In the third ban notification issued by the Department of Communications and IT , about 18 Tweeter handles were ordered to be blocked. Of these,I understand, only one is that of a Muslim. The remaining are all of Hindus. Do you mean to say that only Hindus tweet and Muslims don’t.  None of you had the intellectual honesty to draw attention to this during the debate.

15.Shri Panda also claimed that such special digital prohibitory powers are given only to the security forces in India and that the security forces in other democracies do not seek such powers.

16. On April 25,2012, the British media reported as follows: “A suggestion has been put forward by Sir David Ormand, the former head of the UK’s intelligence gathering centre GCHQ, urging UK government that social media sites should be covered strictly. Terrorist and criminals elements use social websites like Facebook and Twitter to achieve their heinous objectives, according to Ormand. He said that the responsible authorities should keep the suspects under constant surveillance. The former intelligence officer was of the view that individual accounts should be hacked if necessary, but added this should only be done under special circumstances. “Social media is how people are talking to each other,” he said. There have been reports that Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden are using social media to communicate,” and Mr Omand said that in such circumstances the authorities need to be able to gain access to private accounts.”

17. Similarly, in the US, intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies have many more powers for Net surveillance and counter-action than we have in India.

18. Despite my criticism, I compliment Barkha for having this debate live and at short notice. I appreciate how difficult it would have been to organise this live and in a co-ordinated and time-bound manner. Her team headed by Ruby Dingra, the producer, deserve equal credit.

19.The debate drew attention to the lack of professionalism in our Net surveillance architecture, our weak-data base of threats of digital origin, our weak machinery for follow-up action on perceived threats, our weak analytical capability in matters relating to criminal misuse of the  Net and the weak co-ordination between the MHA and the intelligence agencies on the one side and the Department of Communications and IT on the other.

20. Till now, our focus has largely been on action required to meet threats of a military and para-military nature arising from State actors through the cyber space. The recent events  have shown the need for equal focus on strengthening our capability to meet non-conventional threats of a psychological nature from indigenous and foreign non-State actors.

21. Barkha’s show  drew attention to some of these aspects in a lucid manner for which she has to be complimented. However, some of us in the national security community----serving and retired---could not help forming a suspicion that the show was influenced to some extent by cronyism, but unfortunately that is becoming the order of the day in our TV world. (28-8-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

Thursday, August 23, 2012



I have known Shri Kanchan Gupta since 2000. I was a member of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) from 2000 to end-2002. He was working in the PMO under Shri Brajesh Mishra, the then Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and National Security Adviser. Kanchan used to attend meetings of the NSAB on behalf of  Shri Mishra.

2. Kanchan then went on a posting to the Indian Embassy in Cairo and we lost touch with each other. After his return from Cairo on the completion of his posting, I ran into him in 2008 -, before the 2009 elections, at a policy brain-storming organised by Shri Dayananda Sarawathi at a tourist resort near Ahmedabad. Among those who attended were Shri Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shri Mohan Bhagwat, the present chief of the RSS, Shri Ram Madhav of the RSS, Shri Arun Shourie, Shri Kanchan Gupta, Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, the present spokesperson of the BJP, Shri Ajit Doval, former Director, Intelligence Bureau, Shri Prakash Singh, former Director-General of the Border Security Force, and many other retired public servants. Shri L.K.Advani was to attend, but did not.

3. I was invited to make a presentation on Pakistan, which I did. One of the sessions was devoted to a discussion on what should be the media strategy of the BJP. There was a feeling amongst some of the participants that the mainstream media was not giving sufficient opportunity to the BJP and other right-wing forces to air their views on matters of national interest and even if they did on some occasions, there was a distortion of their views. It was suggested by some participants that the BJP could get over this handicap by making good use of the online media.

4. I notice that the BJP, the supporters of Shri Modi and other right-wing elements have since been trying to do so with the help of IT-savvy  supporters of the Hindutva ideology in India and the US. In fact, it has been my impression that the Hindutva elements have had a head-start over the Congress in the use of the online media, including the social media networks, for the dissemination of their ideology and points of view.

5. After the meeting in 2008, I have not met Kanchan again, but we have been in touch with each other off and on through E-Mail and Tweets. We hold each other in great esteem despite differences in the way we view and analyse developments of national interests I have always thought of Kanchan as patriotic and upright. I consider him an individual of high intellectual integrity.

6.Kanchan recently resigned from “The Pioneer” in which he was holding  a senior position and took charge of a new online news journal. Sometime later, I received an E-mail from a journalist working for a New Delhi-based journal which had played an active role in the witch-hunt and inquisition of Barkha Dutt of NDTV towards 2010-end. He said in his mail that he was planning a story on the BJP’s Net-based media strategy and wanted to have a discussion with me  on this. His request was  triggered by some comments tweeted by me some months ago on the 2008 brain-storming. Subsequently, I had also tweeted drawing attention to a report carried by Rediff on the likely net-based media budgets of the BJP and Shri Modi. I did not reply to him.

7.When I went online early on the morning of August 23,2012, I noticed some Tweets alleging that Kanchan’s Twitter line had been blocked on the orders of the Government. But, I was able to access it. However, his TL remained frozen at midnight of August 22. I tweeted to Kanchan to find out the facts. Some of my followers, who had seen this Tweet, replied that while some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) seemed to have blocked his Twitter Line, some others have not.

8. In reply to my Tweet, I received a Tweet from Kanchan by DM. I was surprised he did not reply in the normal manner , but instead chose a DM.

9.Subsequently, I saw in the media the photocopies of the four Memos issued by the Government to Internet Service Providers directing them to block certain web sites and Twitter lines. I noticed three odd features in these communications:

( a ).None of them was typed on an official letterhead.

( b ).None of them carried the stamp of the issuing Department.

( c ).While two of them spelt out at the bottom Tele/Fax and gave the numbers, two others carried pictures of a telephone and a Fax machine and gave the numbers against them.

10. I just wanted to draw the attention of my readers to these odd features. This should not be interpreted to mean I doubt the authenticity of these communications. I would like to underline that the Government itself has not denied their authenticity.

11.While three of the communications directed the blocking of the sites/lines of Islamic organisations, either in India or Pakistan, the fourth included the Twitter lines of some Hindus/Hindu entities too and asked for them to be blocked. My assessment from this is that after having initially targeted some Islamic sites/lines, the Government wanted to convey an impression to the Muslim community that it was being objective by bringing some Hindus/Hindu entities too in the lists.

12. It needs to be noted that while the Islamic sites carry on vicious, provocative propaganda, the Hindus and Hindu entities targeted by the Government do not do so. They merely counter the pernicious propaganda of the Islamic fundamentalists. The Government has sought to silence them too by targeting them.

13. In my view, Kanchan was one of those thus targeted by the Government for the following reasons:

( a ).Amongst the pro-Hindutva journalists, he is the most active online.

( b ).He is seen by the Government as spearheading the Net-based media strategy of the Hindutva and other right-wing elements.

( c ). His new online venture is seen by the Government as having been started with an eye on the 2014 elections.

14. As an online Editor, Kanchan’s dependence on social media networks for communicating with his followers, readers and contributors would be heavy. The Government wanted to needle him and create difficulties for him in developing his new online venture.

15. But the uproar over the blocking of sites/lines of journalists, particularly Kanchan, has forced the Government on the defensive and it has refrained from any follow-up action against Kanchan.

16. It is obvious to me that the attempted blocking of Kanchan indicated the Government’s keenness to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the recent panic due to the online dissemination of exaggerated reports and rumours to create difficulties in the implementation of the Net-based media strategy of the BJP and other right-wing elements. It has misfired at least for the time being. (24-8-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)